The best game of the day in the Big Ten will kick off in the 3:30 ET ABC time slot, when Michigan State hosts Notre Dame. It's a contest between two teams who are hard to get a read on right now. One doesn't want to make too much of the Irish victory over Michigan, given how unimpressive the Wolverines have been and how unimpressive both teams played last Saturday. But conversely, we also ought not read too much into Notre Dame's barely surviving San Diego State. Since Charlie Weis' team bounced back with a win, we can assume their September 6 struggles were a product of it being an opening game and a lookahead all wrapped up into one. Eric Hansen of The South Bend Tribune writes that Mike Turkovich has been the pleasant surprise on the offensive line.
Michigan State's one loss came at Cal, and on the surface the seven-point defeat in Berkely looks pretty reasonable. At least that is, until you consider the Golden Bears were badly outplayed in Maryland, a 35-27 loss not as close as it looks. Since that's the only real test the Spartans have had, understanding Cal is vital to understanding Michigan State. And what we understand right now is that we understand neither. Got all that?
And no rivalry is harder to understand than this one. The road team has won seven straight. It's hard to see where this particular edition of the Fighting Irish is good enough to buck the odds and make it eight in a row. Particularly when the one thing we do understand about either team is that the one legitimate Heisman candidate is in the Spartan backfield. Javon Ringer's a darkhorse for New York City, and he's the early frontrunner in the conference MVP sweepstakes. Shannon Shelton of The Detroit Free Press reports that quarterback Brian Hoyer isn't envious of his teammate's success.
There's one night game on the Big Ten slate this week and that's when Indiana hosts in-state rival Ball State, from up the road in Muncie. This one could be interesting, though it won't be on television. The Cardinals are pretty good, off to a 3-0 start that includes a win over Navy. Jason Whitlock at Fox Sports, a proud alum, had speculated prior to the season that Ball State would be the BCS party-crasher this year. That sounds like a pretty huge stretch and we'll find out Saturday night how big a homer Whitlock was.
Three of the Big Ten's marquee programs are off this week. Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin all have a bye on Saturday.